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Americans are miserable because of the record price of gasoline

Gasoline prices increased by 62%, so Sonny Alaniz only dared to fill the tank halfway and had to pay the price when the car ran out of gas in the middle of the road at midnight.

Alaniz, a nursing student, on May 28 with 7 friends drove out to celebrate his 22nd birthday in Texas, USA. In the middle of the night, as they were on their way home, the car suddenly began to fade and shut down on a remote rural road. The light showed no gas, so they had to go out and push the car.

The group pushed the car for nearly 5 km before someone brought gasoline, but the car still did not start and they finally had to call an ambulance. “Next time I’ll probably just stay home,” Alaniz joked.

Alina Hille stops for gas in St.  Louis, Missouri, June 7.  Photo: Washington Post

Alina Hille stops for gas in St. Louis, Missouri, June 7. Image: Washington Post

The situation of running out of gas in the middle of the road is increasingly familiar in the US, when gas prices are increasingly expensive, causing drivers to often “bet” with the amount of fuel left in the tank.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) said it received 50,787 calls about running out of gas in April, up 32 percent from the same period last year. More than 200,000 drivers have been stuck in a similar situation so far this year. Gasoline prices have skyrocketed since April, making the financial pain of car owners in the US more severe.

Fuel prices began to rise after Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, upsetting global energy markets. AAA data shows a gallon of gasoline (3.78 liters) in the US has increased 62% to $4.96 since last year.

Auto users in 16 US states are paying an average of at least $5 a gallon, while gas prices in California have hit $6. Filling a tank of gas depending on the vehicle type can cost more than $100, or 14 hours of after-tax income for some workers.

The price of gasoline has increased, the cost of buying goods, food, and rent has also increased, causing many Americans to fall into the situation of having to spend money. Some people just fill up their gas tank halfway through their paycheck, says Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis.

“If there’s only $10 left in their pocket, and the paycheck hasn’t been received, they have to do it,” De Haan said. “This fact shows how much people are being affected by high gas prices.”

A survey conducted by the Washington Post – Schar School from April 21 to May 12 showed that 44% of drivers only partially filled the gas tank, this figure rises to 61% for those with an income of less than $ 50,000 / year. More than 60% of respondents decided to drive less, 30% said driving at a lower speed to save gas.

The US Energy Agency said that the 4-week moving average graph of gasoline demand in the US, through May 20, has decreased to 8.8 million barrels per day. Excluding 2020, the period of Covid-19 outbreak, this is the lowest level for this time of year since 2013.

Alina Hille, 35, never ran out of gas until June 2, when she was on the road with her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Leaving the car on the side of the road, the mother and daughter walked to the nearest gas station to buy a small bottle of gas for $1.50, poured it into the car and tried to run home in time to attend a Zoom meeting.

She is looking for ways to make money, work from home more, increase walking to school, but it is still very difficult because now she has to spend $ 67 to refill the bottle, $9 more than last month.

“I couldn’t do the things I used to do with my kids because gas prices went up,” Hille said. “We used to drive around when the kids were out of school or going to the playground, or going somewhere they’ve never been before.”

“Now I have to save that money to buy essentials,” she said.

In Texas, Alaniz said rising fuel prices forced him to change his plans for work and school. Alaniz often drives more than 60 miles from his family farm near Alice to his university in Corpus Christi in a Chevy Silverado 2500 pickup, which has a fuel consumption of nearly 17 liters per 100 km on the highway.

Even when taking a part-time job, Alaniz now can’t afford gas for the car. “Now it’s $60 to get half a bottle,” he said. Alaniz is selling the Chevy in exchange for a smaller, more fuel-efficient car, and is transitioning to online learning next semester.

Roger Ware, an economist at Queen’s University in Ontario, said drivers often don’t change their driving habits in the short term because an alternative has not been found. “However, after a few months or a few years, a lot of things will change if gas prices stay that high,” he said.

According to Ware, they will switch to public transport or carpool when gas prices don’t drop. Consumers will rethink their vehicles, switching to more fuel-efficient ones. Some will move closer to work or work more remotely.

According to David Bennett, AAA’s director of repair systems, high gas prices and an increasing number of Americans continuing their pre-pandemic driving habits have contributed to the spike in calls for gas rescue.

“People have been stuck at home for the past two years,” Bennett said. “They’re looking to go out and explore.”

Line up to buy discounted fuel at Costco in Santa Clarita, California, May 27.  Photo: AP

Line up to buy discounted fuel at Costco in Santa Clarita, California, May 27. Image: AP

Danielle Socha, who works as a food delivery man for three apps in San Diego, is spending $83 to refill a tank of gas. She ran out of gas many times in the middle of the road, to the point that it became a joke with friends and family.

“My gas meter is broken,” she said. “I don’t know if the car has gas or not and runs out of gas in the middle of the road from time to time.”

Socha keeps an empty can in his car to walk to the gas station if needed. The situation of running out of gas in the middle of the road is not always miserable, because sometimes she is helped by kind people. Most recently, a young man helped her push a car to the side of the road when he saw Socha asking for help.

Gasoline prices have also increased, giving rise to fuel theft. A San Diego couple called the police after discovering a hole in the gas tank in March. Similar incidents have been reported in Memphis, Las Vegas and other cities.

Three people in Florida have been arrested and face charges of stealing thousands of gallons of diesel from gas stations and pumping them into plastic bags to resell on the market.

Hong Hanh (Follow Washington Post)

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